Everyone's heard one of those home improvement stories about how the Joneses removed their carpeting only to find gorgeous, pristine hardwood floors. The truth is, you're liable to find anything under your old carpeting. It's not uncommon to find floors covered with foam backing, material that's been glued straight to the floor. Removing it the wrong way could cause damage to the floor and to the carpet, and that's the last thing you want.
Test the floor. Go to any corner of the room and pull up a small area of the carpet until you can see the floor underneath. If the old glue has a brownish tint to it, you can assume it's made with a tar-based material. You'll be using white spirit as a solvent to remove the foam from your floor. If the glue is more yellowish in colour, choose an adhesive remover.
Open windows and doors to ventilate the area. Working with solvents can be dangerous if you're not getting enough fresh, clean air. Be sure to keep the room airy, to avoid breathing the fumes. It's also a good idea to put on gloves to protect the skin.
Test the materials. Pour a small amount of your solvent on the exposed corner of the floor, then use the floor scraper to gently remove the glued, old foam backing from the area. Do only a very small portion, to see if the white spirit and the scraper work without damaging the floor.
Pull up as much carpet as possible by hand. Working backward from your starting corner, pull the carpet off the floor in big pieces.
Work on a small area of flooring at a time, moving in slow increments. Thoroughly soak the area with the solvent using a paintbrush or sponge before applying the scraper. Use only the amount of force necessary to remove the old foam and glue. Do not exert enough pressure to dent, scratch, chip or otherwise damage your flooring. Sometimes, the solvent may have to sit for a few moments to soak into the old materials.
Dampen a cloth with your solvent, and wipe up the excess glue and foam after thoroughly scraping the floor.
Mop the area thoroughly after the carpet has been removed. Allow the floor to dry completely before moving any furniture back into the space.
Get a friend to help if possible. Removing carpet can be labour-intensive, tiring work. Hire a professional if the task proves to be too tedious.